Vivien Pomfrey
BSc (Hons) (Open)
DipNatSci (Open)
MSc (Science) (Open)

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Wanton destruction of the rural environment

The Kensey Link Road

I moved to my present home largely due to its peaceful rural nature, and there was no hint of plans to concrete and tarmac over my surroundings in the search documents returned to my solicitor by the councils.  This was despite the fact that, as I discovered later, there were plans to demolish my garage to make way for a new relief road, which was proposed to run close to my garden.

Within months of moving in, I started to find out about the plans. I looked out of my window at the fields and hedgerows which I had come to love, and my eyes filled with tears as I realised that I might find myself watching them being destroyed in the course of building the road.  It was almost unbearable, and I started to avoid looking out of that window.

The dossier ‘Kensey Link Road critique[pdf-340kb] says most of what needs to be said about why this road should not be built. More recent developments are detailed below.

My letter to local press 18.2.2005

Dear Editor,

Well, it looks as though nothing will stop Cornwall County Council in their determination to build the dreadful, destructive and unnecessary Kensey Link Road in Launceston.

The western section of the route was described in the Phase I Ecological Assessment in May 2003 as "wet woodland, which is of local nature conservation importance and is the habitat of greatest importance at the site. This kind of habitat has been identified as a priority habitat for conservation on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBG, 1998) and on the Cornwall Biodiversity Action Plan (CBI, 1997-1998). Plans for the conservation of this habitat have been written both at a national and county level and efforts to conserve it should be made."

The Assessment recommended "Careful consideration of the road alignment with the aim of avoiding the wet woodland area" and "siting the plant and machinery away from any semi-natural habitats, preferably on a hardstanding area."

On Wednesday 16th February, apparently in order to sink boreholes, heavy diggers were driven along the whole length of this woodland, compacting and churning up the soil and rutting and disrupting watercourses. Trees were felled and branches dumped in the watercourses. I only hope that there were no hatched tadpoles there, as there are on another disused railway cutting nearby. I also hope that no other amphibians or reptiles were crushed.

Cornwall Highways Technician Robin Jamieson said that the contractors (Groundsearch) had been instructed to limit the diggers to areas of aggregate and to avoid the watercourses. I questioned what he meant by areas of aggregate. He said that he was talking about the aggregate which was left when it was a railway, but that was decades ago - it is now a wild habitat and has developed a woodland soil which supports (or did support) a diverse flora including trees and a wealth of Southern Marsh Orchids.

It looks as though it doesn't matter to the council what is found during ecological assessments. So why do they bother having them (funded by the taxpayer)? It seems to be just a formality. Maybe I should ask the council if it would be OK for me to drive over areas of local nature conservation importance in a heavy vehicle and, if not, why is it OK for them to commission people to do it, for a road which will cost taxpayers a fortune, destroy the environment and solve nothing?


Perhaps the digger driver was working to a definition of 'avoiding' which involves driving through and along watercourses and filling them with branches.
[Click on photos to view full size image 200kb to 335kb]

 

Earth moving vehicle avoiding watercourses?

Earth moving vehicle avoiding watercourses?

 

However, to be fair, I would imagine that it would have been hard for him to keep his mind on avoiding the watercourses while his dog kept jumping in and out of the cab and perching on the edge.

Also on 16th February 2005 I saw a sight from my house which I had hoped never to see.

 

Digger

orchids after digger

In view of the devastation wrought in the wet woodland, I dropped work for the rest of the day and sat at my window watching the digger’s progress.  I think that the contractors could see me, which was intended.  I surmised that if they knew that someone was watching, they would be less likely to cut down trees or cause other damage.  I checked out the site later to make sure.

Nature has started to heal the scars left in the wet woodland by the digger.

I posted information on the BBCi website, similar to that sent to the press, and was very pleased to be contacted by a representative of Tintagel Wildlife Interest Group (TWIG) offering support.  Several members have now visited the site of the proposed road and share my concern and opposition.

It is hard to have confidence in the county council in view of the facts that

  • They have repeatedly failed to contact/consult me when organising ecological and other surveys on a section of another disused railway cutting which runs beside my garden, which I am managing for wildlife (see e-mail to council below).

  • They will not give me a straight answer to the question “Do you agree that the road is not to be a local distributor road, but a relief road for through traffic?” which was prompted by a puzzling statement in the badger, otter and bat survey (referred to in e-mail below).  The nearest I got was “I don't know where CEC (Cornwall Environmental Consultants) got the information that this would be a local distributor road” in response to my question “Did you tell CEC that the proposed road would be a local distributor road rather than a road to take through-traffic?” (I still don’t know where they got the false information, as the environmental consultants refused to say.)

  • They gave me erroneous figures for the predicted traffic flow on the proposed road (corrected after I queried it with reference to a traffic-flow map which I had).


E-mail to county council
Sunday, February 20, 2005 10:39 AM

Subject: Kensey Valley badger, otter and bat survey


Dear Mr Jamieson,

Thank you for the CEC badger, otter and bat survey on the Kensey Link Road site, received today. I would be most grateful if you would ensure that I receive future documents relating to the road as soon as they become available, not only because I am a keen amateur naturalist but also because I have a strong interest in the Kensey Link Road Project, for obvious reasons.

I do not recall being consulted over the survey in question, despite my having repeatedly asked you to ensure that this happens due to the fact that I am, with the permission of the landowner Mrs ****************, managing the section of the disused railway cutting adjacent to my garden (in area 3 on Map 2 of the report, the whole of which is still designated as 'bramble scrub', which is inaccurate). As I have stated before, I have planted trees and native wild plants and sown wildflower seeds here, as well as managing the brambles, nettles, etc. to allow the area to become more biodiverse, with significant success. If people do not tell me when they are going to walk on this land I cannot advise them where to take care, and nor can I provide them with information which may assist them in their survey. (I trust that Mrs *************** was consulted.) I note that you say that you asked CEC to come and see me, but perhaps you did not emphasise it sufficiently strongly. I would really appreciate a telephone call before future surveys in this area.

Comments on the report

I note that CEC have now acknowledged that the area of 'bramble scrub' in area 3 is 'quite wet' 'in contrast to the previous report.' This should have been apparent from the fact that the area has a high concentration of 'issues' which are shown on maps, and I notified you of this soon after the first report. It would also have been realised if the area had been surveyed the first time; whereas it had been described as 'impenetrable' which it is not. Even if it were difficult to access from the east, there are many points of access nearer the eastern end which I, a disabled person, am able to use. As I notified you after seeing the previous report (Phase I Ecological Assessment), the eastern section of area 3 is not bramble scrub; it is wet woodland with a watercourse running through it. It is rich spawning ground for frogs, and there is hatched and unhatched spawn there at the moment. Yellow Flag Iris is flourishing where I have planted it along with Marsh Marigold.

On page 14 there is reference to my reports on bats at Ridgegrove Mill. I can contact the previous owners of the mill for details of their bat findings if they are not on ERCCIS records. The reference to my report of a bat being found in my house (it was found in my roof by builders when they were replacing the roof) adds to my puzzlement over the failure to contact me in relation to this new report - CEC could have looked in my loft and surveyed the bats flying near my house. I have frequently observed bats flying southwards from the field east of my house towards the planned road route, sometimes proceeding south-eastwards towards the disused railway embankment, sometimes due south towards the small wood between my house and the proposed road route, and sometimes westwards along the terrace in which my house is situated. As my house is very close to the proposed road route where it passes the small wood, such records would probably be useful.

On the same page there are unclear references to bridges. There are three bridges on Ridgegrove Hill in the vicinity, two of which are railway bridges. It would have been helpful to identify the bridges more specifically. Further on, the bat record for 22nd July contains many references to bridges which are not clearly identified, and reference to a 'bridge house' (I do not know what house this refers to), unspecified cuttings and a 'horse field'. There are four fields which are grazed by horses in the area, two near the proposed road, one north of Monks Park and one east of Monks Park (from the 'Method' description, the last of these can probably be eliminated).

I would like to remind you of the other records which I supplied previously, e.g. the kingfisher seen perching on Ridgegrove Mill and feeding from the leat, the otters seen in the river by my next-door neighbour, those seen by the previous occupants of Ridgegrove Mill (in their leat), the otter spraints found by Cornwall Otters and Rivers officer Kate Stokes, the water shrews which I have found and reported to Kate, and the amphibian and reptile records which I supplied to Mark Nicholson at Cornwall Wildlife Trust for several years (common toad and common frog, palmate newt, slow worm, common lizard and grass snake). I have seen two young (about a foot long) grass snakes - one in Ridgegrove Hill a few metres from the wet woodland in area 1 on Map 2, and one in my pond. I have recorded slow worms in many locations in the area. I have not had time to collate my other records due to having to focus on my final Open University Masters degree studies and now struggling to transfer from Incapacity Benefit to paid work again. My disability (M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) places substantial limitations on the workload that I can manage, and time spent on this issue may reduce my ability to support myself financially.

I am puzzled by the statement on page 16 that "As a local distributor road, it is unlikely that traffic levels would be high and combined with the low speed of the road..." Are CEC not aware that the road is a relief road intended to relieve traffic in St Thomas, Dockacre and Western Roads, and would take traffic travelling from Holsworthy to the A30 and the south? That the principal reason for its construction is to relieve traffic congestion which is deemed to be severe? If traffic levels are expected to be so low, how can the costs - financial, environmental and safety-related (e.g. increasing traffic through a residential estate) possibly be justified?


Pro-road people lose their way

The local paper - the Cornish and Devon Post - on May 4th 2006 featured a puzzling, if not alarming, photograph and caption on its back page. The photo was of Launceston Forum chair Chris Parsons and Launceston mayor Gerald Smith pointing towards the terrace where I live and apparently asking "Where's the Kensey Link?"

These two gentlemen were upset, having heard through the grapevine that the county council had dropped the link road scheme, and were clearly under the misapprehension that they were standing where the road was planned to run.

I can only presume

(a) that they have not studied the Road Traffic Reduction Acts, the Cornwall County Structure Plan and the Local Transport Plan. If they had, they would have seen that the road scheme contravenes all of them.

(b) that they have not even checked the route of the road. If they had, they would have realised that the planned route is along a different disused railway cutting to the south.

It is a matter of great concern when people in positions of influence not only make up their own minds, but attempt to persuade others to follow suit, in the absence of the necessary knowledge.

I will try to keep this site updated about the road. The council’s own webpage is at

http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=7941

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